Mickey North Rizza: Women in Procurement

Mickey North Rizza

Mickey North Rizza, vice president of strategic services at BravoSolution, calls herself a “natural problem solver.” From earlier in her career as a buyer, she was constantly asking questions, trying to determine why things were done a certain way, searching for the source of a problem and researching possible solutions.

“There wasn’t necessarily always an answer for me, which was fine,” she admits. “But I wanted to find the better way.”

Her bosses encouraged her curiosity and determination. They also took note. Mickey said it was those “extra steps” she made to try to improve things at whatever company she was at or position she was in at the time that allowed her to progress in her career.

“I would come back with different types of answers, suggestions,” she said. “Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t work. But the people I have worked for not only saw in me the ability to move forward and be a leader and whatnot, they also recognized, I think most importantly, that I was willing to go the extra mile, ask the questions, find out the root cause, really look hard at different solutions and incorporate what made sense.”

This process of discovery and always searching for something better is one thing Mickey encourages other women in procurement to do. If something doesn’t seem right, fix it.

“Lean in, ask the questions, get to the bottom of things and get to those next levels,” Mickey said. “If it’s not there, and you are not getting what you want out of it, step back and say, ‘What do I need to do to change perhaps my stance, my way of looking at it to make my contribution better?’ Conversely, Mickey added, you may also realize that perhaps your “contribution is better somewhere else.”

A Career Path of Taking Chances

An interesting fact about Mickey: she originally started studying pre-law in college, but — and this is something you probably don’t hear often about pre-law students — she was “bored.” That boredom sparked her desire to make a change. She switched to studying material logistics management. Out of college she became a buyer, and worked her way up to higher positions, such as purchasing manager, materials manager and later director of procurement and vice president of procurement at different companies.

In 2005, she made another switch, to AMR Research, and then about four years later to Gartner, where she took positions as a research director, working as a strategist and advisor for companies on supply chain, procurement and sourcing issues. Her years as a procurement practitioner served her well in these roles. She found it easy to talk to procurement organizations and work through their challenges because she had been in their shoes years earlier.

Mickey took yet another leap in 2012 when she began working in the procurement technology provider space at BravoSolution. She provides thought leadership and advisory services for the firm on areas of supply chain, procurement, sourcing and supplier management. During her time at Bravo, she has been recognized by numerous sources as a top female supply chain executive. For example, in 2013 Mickey was among the top female supply chain executives named by Supply & Demand Chain Executive. In 2015, Fronetics Strategic Advisors also featured her in its series on women in the supply chain.

As you can see by the changes Mickey made in her career, she isn’t afraid to try new things. There are many opportunities available at a variety of companies, Mickey said, and people have to be willing to take a risk. However, she also suggested having a “fall back position,” if that risk doesn’t pay off. Mickey is extra lucky, in that she has three “fallbacks”: procurement technology expert, analyst/advisor and procurement practitioner. She may even add a fourth to that list.

“At this point in my life, my ambitions are pretty big and I am not ready to stop,” Mickey said. "If i can impart one thing to women, it’s don’t let anyone tell you, ‘No’ — don’t let anyone take away your dreams. Look inside yourself, remember who you are and take that forward, because there will be that right fit. There will be that right situation.”

‘Mentoring Comes Down to Helping People in Life’

You may have noticed so far that Mickey has a wealth of useful advice for women and other professionals in procurement and the supply chain. Giving it seems to come natural to her. It could come — at least part of it — from her dedication to staying connected, whether it is through the sorority she continues to be involved in or remaining in contact with other professionals and mentors.

The older she gets, and the more experience she has in the industry, Mickey said the number of female mentors she has has grown. These are CEOs of companies, board members, friends, people she believes in and respects highly. They talk about things like projects they are working on, their goals (both regarding business and their personal life) for the next year or even five or 10 years out, and together search for solutions on how to achieve those goals.

“All of them give me something as a human being to take and instill in myself and become a stronger human to take forward in my business and in my personal life,” she said.

Mickey still believes there is more women can do to work together. Women are not necessarily always other woman's’ “friends in business,” Mickey said. And that needs to change.

“We need to recognize we can help each other get there,” she said. “Men can do it, we need to do it. But maybe it’s not phrasing it as men can do it, but ask how do we, as women, join forces better to help each other do better?”

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Voices (2)

  1. Elisabeth Schlag-Lawrence:

    One of my absolute favorite people in our space … a great role model, innovator and (thought) leader on multiple fronts. Thank you for paving the way … such well deserved recognition. All the continued best.

  2. Barbara Ardell:

    Well deserved recognition. Mickey is a pro, and not just a female pro. Her advice to go above and beyond, to question, to look for root causes and to never take no for an answer are bang on. She is also correct that women need to support each other more. I have a few years on Mickey but I consider her a mentor and have definitely gone to her for advice. She’s top notch, both personally and professionally. I’m honored to call her a friend and colleague.

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